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OpenPhone rings up $14 million to put your work phone in an app

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Communication tools are evolving quickly. We have all kinds of social media for our personal lives, Slack for chatting with our coworkers, Discord for gaming and other communities, and Zoom and FaceTime for when we want to look someone (almost) in the eyes.

But the business phone has been mostly stuck in the past. OpenPhone wants to change that.

The company, which today announced the close of a $14 million Series A financing, is looking to bring the same modern communications features that we use every day to our work phone. The round. was led by Craft Ventures’ David Sacks with participation from Slow Ventures, Kindred Ventures, Y Combinator, Garage Capital and Chapter One Ventures.

OpenPhone lets employees make calls, send texts, and add context to their business contacts all from an app on their phone or computer. Moreover, the app lets an organization work collaboratively across the platform. For example, a company or department can have a single shared number, as well as their own individual numbers, and can also share and sync information about contacts across the org.

Alongside the announcement of the funding, OpenPhone is also releasing a handful of new features on the platform, including new integrations with HubSpot and Zapier. The app is also introducing international calling, group messaging among teammates, search functionality, and analytics around OpenPhone usage.

The company claims that 77 percent of consumers use text for business communication and that upwards of 80 percent of small businesses use a personal cell phone for professional calls. That said, legacy solutions are often highly complicated phones with no messaging capabilities.

There are, however, several competitors looking to bring the work phone into the 21st century alongside OpenPhone. RingCentral and DialPad are just two that also put the work phone in the cloud, and they’ve raised $44 million and $220 million respectively with an impressive list of investors across the two of them (such as Sequoia and A16Z).

OpenPhone costs $10/month per user for the base tier, with more expensive options for more complicated use cases. The startup is happy to sell directly to individuals within an organization for a bottom-up approach.

“The biggest challenge so far is breaking out of the noise,” said cofounder and CEO Mahyar Raissi. “Our strategy is to build OpenPhone for startups because they’re small businesses that grow up and can become difficult to serve, and if we can build for that kind of company that means we’re the type of solution that can potentially be applied in most use cases.”

OpenPhone has a team of 11 employees, with just over 25 percent female team members and the same ratio of non-white employees. Four of the 11 employees are first-generation immigrants, including the cofounders.

The company says its tripled revenue since the beginning of the pandemic, in March 2020, and has powered more than 7.5 million calls and more than 17.3 million messages since launch.

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Neuroglee gets $2.3 million to develop digital therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases

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There are now about 50 million people with dementia globally, a number the World Health Organization expects to triple by 2050. Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of dementia and caregivers are often overwhelmed, without enough support.

Neuroglee, a Singapore-based health tech startup, wants to help with a digital therapeutic platform created to treat patients in the early stages of the disease. Founded this year to focus on neurodegenerative diseases, Neuroglee announced today it has raised $2.3 million in pre-seed funding.

The round was led by Eisai Co., one of Japan’s largest pharmaceutical companies, and Kuldeep Singh Rajput, the founder and chief executive officer of predictive healthcare startup Biofourmis.

Neuroglee’s prescription digital therapy software for Alzheimer’s, called NG-001, is its main product. The company plans to start clinical trials next year. NG-001 is meant to complement medication and other treatments, and once it is prescribed by a clinician, patients can access its cognitive exercises and tasks through a tablet.

Neuroglee founder and CEO Aniket Singh Rajput (brother of Kuldeep) told TechCrunch that its first target markets for NG-001 are the United States and Singapore, followed by Japan. NG-001 needs to gain regulatory approval in each country, and it will start by seeking U.S. Food and Drug Administration clearance.

Once it launches, clinicians will have two ways to prescribe NG-001, through their healthcare provider platform or an electronic prescription tool. A platform called Neuroglee Connect will give clinicians, caregivers and patients access to support and features for reimbursement and coverage.

The software tracks patients’ progress, such as the speed of their fingers and the time it takes to complete an exercise, and delivers personalized treatment programs. It also has features to address the mental health of patients, including one that shows images that can bring up positive memories, which in turn can help alleviate depression and anxiety when used in tandem with other cognitive behavioral therapy techniques.

For caregivers and clinicians, NG-001 helps them track patient progress and their compliance with other treatments, like medications. This means that healthcare providers can work closely with patients even remotely, which is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

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Govtech intelligence platform, The Atlas for Cities, bought by Government Executive Media Group

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The Atlas for Cities, the 500 Startups-backed market intelligence platform connecting tech companies with state and local governments, has been acquired by the Growth Catalyst Partners-backed publishing and market intelligence company Government Executive Media Group.

The San Diego-based company will become the latest addition to a stable of publications and services that include the Route Fifty, publication for local government and the defense-oriented intelligence service, DefenseOne.

The Atlas provides peer-to-peer networks for state and local government officials to share best practices and is a marketing channel for the startups that want to sell services to those government employees. Through The Atlas, government officials can talk to each other, find case studies for best practices around tech implementations, and post questions to crowdsource ideas.

Government contractors can use the site to network with leadership and receive buyer intent data to inform their strategy in the sector, all while getting intelligence about the problems and solutions that matter to state and local jurisdictions across the nation. 

The Atlas delivers on GEMG’s promise to look for companies that complement and supplement the full suite of offerings that we provide to our partners to reach decision makers across all facets of the public sector,” said Tim Hartman, CEO of Government Executive Media Group, said in a statement.

Led by Ellory Monks and Elle Hempen, The Atlas for Cities launched in 2019 and is backed by financing from individual investors and the 500 Startups accelerator program. It now counts 21,000 government officials across 3,400 cities on its platform.

“State and local governments in the United States spend $3.7 trillion per year. That’s almost 20% of GDP,” said Elle Hempen, co-founder of The Atlas. “Our mission to increase transparency and access for local leaders has the opportunity to transform this enormous, inefficient market and enable tangible progress on the most important issues of our times.”

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Google shutting down Poly 3D content platform

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Google is almost running out of AR/VR projects to kill off.

The company announced today in an email to Poly users that they will be shutting 3D-object creation and library platform “forever” next year. The service will shut down on June 30, 2021 and users won’t be able to upload 3D models to the site on April 30, 2021.

Poly was introduced as a 3D creation tool optimized for virtual reality. Users could easily create low-poly objects with in-VR tools. The software was designed to serve as a lightweight way to create and view 3D assets that could in turn end up in games and experiences, compared to more art and sculpting-focused VR tools like Google’s Tilt Brush and Facebook’s (now Adobe’s) Medium software.

Google has already discontinued most of the company’s AR/VR plays, including most notably their Daydream mobile VR platform.

The AR/VR industry’s initial rise prompted plenty of 3D-centric startups to bet big on creating or hosting a library of digital objects. As investor enthusiasm has largely faded and tech platforms hosting AR/VR content have shuttered those products, it’s less clear where the market is for this 3D content for the time being.

Users that have uploaded objects to Poly will be able to download their data and models ahead of the shutdown.

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